The Great Barrier Reef – one of the most amazing natural phenomena on our planet (the only living thing visible from the moon!) – provides some spectacular snorkeling, diving and sailing opportunities. And one of the best ways to explore the Great Barrier Reef is by staying in the Whitsunday Islands. Sitting on the same latitude as Tahiti, the Whitsundays enjoy a tropical climate with limited rainfall year round, providing warm sunshine and gentle breezes to help you revel in the palm-fringed beaches and the turquoise waters of the Coral Sea.
This archipelago of 74 islands constitutes the largest group of offshore islands in Australia, though only eight of the 74 islands are actually inhabited. The rest of the islands are protected national parks with only campsites for those who want to do more than take day trips there. For those who do want to camp, be prepared – there are generally only pit toilets and no running water. But the upside is that you can have some very secluded, private island time, perhaps even having an entire island to yourself! If you’d rather not rough it in the campsites, the inhabited islands in the Whitsundays do offer a wide range of accommodations from dorm rooms at the Hook Island Wilderness Resort to the Club Med resort of Lindeman Island to the very expensive "luxury" resort on Hayman Island. Or you can stay on the mainland near Airlie Beach and just take day drips out to the islands and the reef.
If rather than seclusion, you’re in the mood for a more lively experience, then you should think about visiting Hamilton Island during “Race Week” in August. The Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands themselves offer natural protection from the open ocean which leads to frequently ideal sailing conditions. The days of Race Week are filled with watching hundreds of colorful sailboats and enjoying barbeque parties on the beach, while the nights are filled with live music by noted Australian artists. Statistics indicate that over 500,000 visitors come to the Whitsunday Islands every year, and it’s clear that a significant portion of those visitors will be there for Race Week so be prepared for crowds!
One of the most famous beaches in the Whitsundays is Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. This 6 km. stretch of pure white sand is often voted as one of the best beaches in the world, and nearby Hill Inlet is famous for the colors created by the shifting sands. Photographers have a heyday here!
You may not want to travel all the way to Australia just to visit these islands, but if you’re going to visit other spots in Australia, remember that the Whitsunday Islands and the splendor of the Great Barrier Reef are close by - just off the coast of Queensland.
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